My name is Kathleen, and I have been researching my family history since I was a child. I love to go into county courthouses and smell the old books and paper... or is it dust? This blog will focus on the stories I've heard over the years and the research methods I follow. I am particularly interested in data management and cloud genealogy.

Some of my personal areas of interest include Southern Maryland and DC (Robie, Rhodes, Grimes, Lindsey), NY state (Hill, Cookingham, Flynn, Rhodes, Skinner, Wheeler, Mead, Havens, Trotter), NJ (Parcell), North Carolina and Eastern TN (Lynch, Seabolt, Spears), MO (Wilcox, Kiddell), and CA (Simi, Grady)

I am always happy to compare notes or share my experiences, so please leave a comment!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Tag Sale

Everyone has heard that Evernote is the best thing since sliced bread, and is a must-have for the genealogist's toolbox....right?  A completely searchable database of whatever you choose to save, available on computer, phone and tablet -- what's not to like?  Despite all the hoopla, I keep hearing colleagues quietly scratching their heads, without a clue about how they can really use Evernote for their research.  

I admit up front that I have a tendency to adopt a new technology and embrace it as the definitive solution, only to drop it just as quickly when it doesn't quite work the way I had hoped (remember Zotero, anyone?)  So this time, I've waited before jumping to a conclusion.  It has now been more than a year since Evernote has been an integral part of my research procedures, and I am confident that I really use it...I might even add that I would be lost without it.  

Evernote has intuitive tools to capture data from a wide variety of sources: images and data from the internet, items you email directly to the program, as well as screen captures and data files from your computer.  You can upload 60 MB per month with a basic account, or 10 GB with a premium account.  Contrary to what you might think given this kind of capacity, I use Evernote primarily to manage my research, not as a place to store data.  

When I first started to use Evernote, it seemed logical to attach all the digital records I found, but then I started to see my data scattered in different locations.  Sometimes it was easy to add a document to Evernote, and other times it was just easier to file it on my computer.  I like consistency, and in the end I decided I am more comfortable storing my data in one place on my computer, in a single filing system that I set up a long time ago.  Evernote was designed to be a productivity tool, not a data storage or back-up system. 

The way I actually use Evernote evolved organically.  I was preparing for a visit to an out of town library and happened to have Evernote open, so I cut and pasted entries from the online catalog into a note.  Within Evernote, I saw that I could add checkboxes to each item, which made it simple to mark them off as I used them at the library.  I could also annotate the catalog entry with remarks about each item as I used it.  It wasn't until much later that I realized I had created a research log... and it required no advance set up or extra steps along the way.  It was easy.  

Another time, I was doing some background reading for a project,  collecting URLs relating to that subject, and decided to gather all the links into a single note.  Ta da! Instantly I had a portable set of completely searchable bookmarks.  Filing a bookmark on my computer is like sending it into the black hole -- it is lost forever.  In Evernote, I never forget why I bookmarked a page because you can annotate to your hearts content, bookmarks are never lost since every word is searchable, and as a result, I actually use them!

By this time, I started to get a sense of what I could do with Evernote.  I set up timelines for the major players in my family tree, with links to online data and citations to other relevant information documenting their lives.  I created tables detailing when my various database subscriptions and society memberships expire.  I added notes containing shared segments and contact information for all my known DNA matches -- just to name a few of the possibilities. Evernote also comes to my rescue when I'm tempted by a "Bright Shiny Object," or BSO(1)  -- just add it to a note and investigate it later.

So here's my secret to making this work:  use tags.  

Yes, Evernote is every-word searchable, but you will make life easier on yourself if you are able to quickly and easily retrieve like items.  Tags allow you to retrieve similar items in one easy search:   all your "to do" items, for example, or everything relating to "DNA."  I mentioned how I use Evernote to create a library catalog list:

  • I tag that note "to do," and add tags for the name of the repository and the relevant person or research question.  
  • When the search is completed, I delete the "to do" tag and replace it with a "research log" tag.  
  • By searching on a combination of tags, you have a flexible way to limit or expand the notes that are returned on any search.  For example: "to do" plus "New York" plus "Schoharie Co" = everything I have to do relating to Schoharie County, NY.  "Research plan" plus "family name" =  all the research plans I have created relating to one particular family, regardless of location...the possibilities for targeted searches are endless.

The most important key to making this work is to have a set of naming conventions and rigorously adhere to them.  Make sure your tags identify a note's "who, what, when, where, why"  qualities, as appropriate.  Here are mine:

1) Tag by name of the family or research project.
2) Tag by place.  I always include the state; including tags for the county or town level depends on usage.  
3) If including actual source material, tag it by type of record:  for example, cemetery, court document, correspondence, land, newspaper, probate/will, vital record, etc.   Also include such record types as finding aides and indexes; it is very useful to have this information handy when you are at the repository. 
4) If I am making a note from data that I have manipulated, I add a tag for what I have done to it, for example:  analysis, research log, research plan, timeline.
5) Tag by actions taken or to be taken: to do, fix this!, BSO. 
6) Tag by repository or location of action to be done.
7) Tag by purpose, for example for background reading, online coursework, etc.
8) Tag by status, for example: pending, complete, uncertain ID.  

Being consistent with your tagging is crucial:  choose a standardized way to spell your tags -- for example, don’t abbreviate some states and spell out others.  If you are working fast and don’t have time to figure out the best tag for a note, you can leave it blank (typing: -tag:* in the search field will bring up all untagged notes) OR just tag it “fix this!” and get back to it later.  I make it a plan to review and clean up my Evernote files once a week.

I don’t worry so much about using Evernote notebooks.  If you are really good at tagging, you don’t need them, and deciding which notebook to use can slow down data entry.

I'd love to hear how others use Evernote, so let me know what works for you!

(1)   "BSO:" I think Thomas MacEntee coined this phrase, which captures the lure of a new avenue of research when we should be focusing on whatever task is in front of us.  I used to call it the squirrel syndrome.  It's my biggest "time thief."

Monday, August 3, 2015

Simultaneous states of being....

About a year ago, I started a series of sketches about my own life for "future genealogy," so in that vein, here's another installment.

I had a great childhood.  My father was a Naval officer and we were constantly on the move. With all that upheaval, my description of a “great” childhood might seem a bit surprising.  The “great” part came from all the unique experiences we had as a family over the years, and I would say that living in Japan topped the list.  From 1968 to 1970, Dad was stationed at the Navy base in Yokosuka, about an hour and a half south of Tokyo.  It is one of those places that seems to hold special memories for anyone who has ever lived there.⁠1  I loved it because I had the freedom to roam around on my bike without parental supervision, and movies at the theater were free.  I think my mom most enjoyed the fact that there were 360 yen to the dollar.

My mother always likes to try new things —“it’s an adventure!” is a phrase we heard often growing up.  So when she saw an ad in the paper seeking westerners for photographic modeling jobs, she thought it would be a fun thing for us to do.  Before long, our headshots were on file at the Eddie Arab Modeling Agency (which, by the way, is still in business today!)⁠2, and we were making regular trips up to Tokyo to meet the agency handler who would take us to the photo shoot.

Our meeting point was always the dog statue at the Shibuya train station. The statue commemorates Hachiko the dog, who punctually waited for his master’s train every day.  Even after he died, the dog continued his daily ritual of meeting the train for nine more years, until he himself died.  His fidelity has come to symbolize the ultimate expression of loyalty.  Naturally enough, the statue, placed at the spot where Hachiko waited for his master all those years, has become famous as a place to meet.⁠3  
Nancy (left) and Kathleen (right) at Shibuya train station, circa 1969
And I suppose Mom was right… in retrospect, modeling was an adventure!

...I became the face of Suzy Homemaker products,

And some really modern, space-age TV sets:

My sister was on everyone’s breakfast table ….
We were in a few commercials, too… I mostly played board games, while my sister appeared in ads for cameras (below), and Datsun (now known as Nissan).

For some odd reason we did a radio commercial once, saying the Japanese words for “It’s new!” in our American accents.

Mostly, though, we were in ads for clothing:

The 1960s may have been “mod” and “groovy,” but it was also the decade of protests and riots — in 1966, my family experienced some of the drama ourselves, which I wrote about here.  Japan didn’t escape the overall mood of that era, and had its own trouble with violent student protests.  Students weren’t just against the war in Vietnam, they were also concerned about the nuclear weapons coming into Japan on U.S. warships. In 1968, the approaching re-negotiation of the U.S.-Japanese Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security4 brought this issue to the forefront.  Whenever a ship carrying nukes docked at the base in Yokosuka, we could be sure of a demonstration outside of the main gate, complete with rocks and tear gas.  (Here’s a link to a photo of the main gate as it looked in the '60s--without the rocks in the air).  

We generally had advance notice of the protests, and were warned to be inside the gates well before they started.  On one of these days, however, my mother, sister, and I were in Tokyo for a photo shoot.   

“No worries,” they told us, when we told them about our deadline. “You will be finished in plenty of time to make your train.”  

Famous last words….  We ran over our time limit, and had to race to catch the only train that might get us back in time.

I remember the trains from Tokyo to Yokosuka were always crowded. 
My mom was pinched countless times, but people were generally nice to little kids.  I was regularly invited onto the laps of strangers (wait, that sounds bad…), and nobody minded when my sister fell asleep on them.
On this day, the trains were crowded as usual, but instead of cute little boys, as in the photo below, the train was full of young men, wearing helmets, carrying shields, and holding signs saying “Yankee Go Home.” It wasn’t quite so cute; we got more than our usual stares on the train that day.  
I remember feeling just a little uneasy on the trip home, but my mother was calm and upbeat as usual.  As our train was arriving in Yokosuka, though, we knew we might not make it to the gate in time.  Even Mom started to get a little nervous; once the gates were closed, there was no entry, under any circumstances.

At the door of the train, we stood ready to spring out and run for it the minute they opened...but we could see the crowds already gathering on the platform as we arrived — a solid mass of angry humanity.  It wasn’t a long walk to the base from the station, but on that day it could have been a walk to Mars.  As the doors opened, Mom took our hands grimly and was about to step into the crowd, when a fellow passenger, all decked out for battle, grabbed her by the arm and said:

“Don’t worry, come with me, and I'll get you to the base!”  

Without another word he pulled us along, and maneuvered through the crowd like a man who knew what he was doing.  Before long we reached the gate, just as it was beginning to close.  Relieved, we flashed our ID cards at the guards, and made it back inside to safety.  From my vantage point inside the gate, I watched our guardian angel melt in to the mob, and transform back into the angry protester, shaking his fist and shouting “Yankee Go Home.”  

Somehow, a person could hate and love  simultaneously.  I’m still trying to figure that one out.

For Further Reading......

     Gibney, Frank, “Politics and Governance in Japan,” in Richard A. Maidment, David S. Goldblatt, Jeremy Mitchell, editors.  Governance in the Asia-Pacific, London:  Routledge Pub., 1998.  E-Library edition pub. By Taylor & Francis, 2005, pp. 70-75 [, accessed 30 Jul 2015]

Hamaguchi, Takashi.  “Student Radicals, Japan 1968 – 69, website describing exhibit of photographs, Dec 4, 2014 – Jan 24, 2015, presented at the Taka Ishii Gallery Photography Paris [, accessed 30 Jul 2015]

Marotti, William.  "Japan 1968:  The Performance of Violence and the Theater of Protest," American Historical Review.  February 2009 [, accessed 30 Jul 2015]
Oguma, Eiji.  Translated by Nick Kapur with Samuel Malissa and Stephen Poland, “Japan's 1968: A Collective Reaction to Rapid Economic Growth in an Age of Turmoil.”  The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 13, Issue. 11, No. 1 [, accessed 30 Jul 2015].

Discussion Thread: “60s era Yokosuka demonstrations/riots against 'nukes’” 5 March 2009, [, accessed 30 Jul 2015].


(all photos from the collection of M.G.Hill; used with permission)
1 This is a very unscientific impression gleaned from postings on a closed Facebook Group “Yokosuka Naval Base Past and Present.” [ accessed 30 Jul 2015]
2 Kawaguchi, Judit, "Actor/Talent Agent Eido Sumiyoshi," The Japan Times 14 May 2009 [, accessed 30 Jul 2015]
3Ċ, accessed 31 July 2015
4, accessed 30 Jul 2015